April 2011 Issue
March 18, 2011

Is your library green?

Source: NYSUT United

When a library invests in going green, it sends the message that it cares about the health of its community. And, taxpayers will appreciate the cost efficiencies.

Because of its visibility, a school library is one of the best places to demonstrate a commitment to highly energy-efficient buildings, low toxicity in building materials and adherence to "reduce, reuse, recycle."

Here are 10 green steps for school libraries, offered by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, a member of the New York Library Association, which is affiliated with NYSUT. Aldrich, who works for the Mid-Hudson Library System, presented a session on "How to Green Your Libraries" at NYLA's recent conference. 

  1. Start planning for financial incentives and grants to help meet green goals and prove cost efficiencies to stakeholders.
  2. Set policies and procedures that institutionalize "green" for everything from renovation and expansion projects to cleaning and purchasing. This will help in finding cost-effective solutions to going green.
  3. Buildings consume 40 percent of energy in the U.S., much of it going to heat and cool indoor air. Assess windows, doors, insulation, ceilings, roof and foundation and prioritize what needs to be fixed or upgraded.
  4. Green cleaning products are just as effective as harsh chemical cleaners and have come down in cost. The state Office of General Services Green Cleaning program has already vetted products and negotiated pricing. It also provides training online at https://greencleaning.ny.gov.
  5. Because good lighting is critical for effective learning environments, libraries should upgrade fluorescent lights. Local utility companies have been offering financial incentives for upgrades. When renovating or designing new space, integrate as much natural light into the library as possible. Studies have shown student performance increases with exposure to natural light.
  6. Every school and community library should make sure that computers and monitors are shut down at the end of every day. Flat-screen LCD monitors use up to 60 percent less energy. Creating a "thin client" network is another way to cut down on computer energy consumption. A thin client is a computer or a computer program that depends on another computer (its server) to fulfill its traditional computing roles.
  7. With Internet-based "cloud computing," shared servers provide resources, software and data to computers and other devices on demand, allowing outside servers to host e-mail, websites and files. Some libraries use it for the Integrated Library System. Students and library users who use Google Docs to store their files can access those files from any Internet-connected computer — eliminating the need to print everything out.
  8. At the Mid-Hudson Library System, a 10-point checklist for reducing paper consumption includes two-sided printing and copying, putting scrap paper in one tray of a printer and using online versions of handouts.
  9. A considerable amount of reference material is fairly out of date as soon as it is printed, yet the needs of students who do not have a connected computer at home must also be met. Find a balance between online versions of reference materials and database product dependence.
  10. Are you using low-VOC paints? Have you reduced electricity costs? Share your success stories and help set the momentum for going green. Exposure to ideas can change the world — libraries have proven that again and again. This is just the next chapter in how libraries change lives. Visit www.SustainableLibraries.org for more information.